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cathy@primetimeexeter.co.uk

TV & Media

For several years, Cathy appeared in her own popular, regular spot on BBC Radio Devon as the ‘Clock Doctor’. Cathy provided general advice and information, and took hundreds of telephone calls relating to problems with the listeners’ ailing clocks, hence the title ‘Clock Doctor’.

Cathy covered many topics, including the history of clocks – starting from the earliest water clocks through to today’s state of the art timepieces – and even ran a competition to find the oldest clock in Devon. The winner was a lantern clock, that had survived the English Civil War. Cathy was recently featured on Exeter FM radio, chatting about her career and business with presenter Colin Slade.

Antiques Roadshow

Cathy, in her capacity as BBC Radio’s ‘Clock Doctor’, visit the Antiques Roadshow at Dartington Hall, in July 2004, and interviewed Michael Aspel, Richard Price (the clock expert from the Roadshow) and many more of the show’s long standing experts.

Ever since being a young girl watching the Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday about teatime, with the family gathered round, all attempting to throw an ‘educated’ guess at the valuation price before the expert announced it, I have longed to actually visit one of them. Little did I know then, that on a pleasant summers day in July 2004 at Dartington Hall in South Devon, I would be presented with the opportunity to not only visit but it would be my great pleasure and privilege to be able to interview for my radio slot, some of the longstanding (in some cases perennial) experts from the series.

Richard Price, probably one of the most recognised faces when it comes to clocks and watches, from the programme, was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule and talk to me about his fascinating, long-standing career with the show:

Richard told me he had been with the Roadshow for some 24 series, which amounted to: ’23 years at least’, ‘it’s great fun’, he said with genuine enthusiasm.

Richard started in the business in the early 1970’s as an enthusiastic watch collector, but has ‘moved away from this area, as the market has changed significantly over the past decade and the margins as far as retail goes are better for clocks than watches, there also appears to be a dearth of watch collectors’. Upon asking whether he had ever stumbled across a ‘Tompion’ or a ‘Mudge’ during the course of the Roadshow, he commented that: ‘Most people who tend to own these things know their value and don’t tend to trot them out on a day like this’. Although, having said that, one of his most memorable discoveries was: ‘An English bracket clock from Norfolk, circa 1770 which included tidal dials, three train and essentially, doing everything you ever wanted from a bracket clock’.

Richard valued it at a staggering £30-35, 000! However, he followed this with a caveat, being that: ‘the chances of something like this turning up and the owner knowing nothing about the particular clock, are slender and they are more likely than not to remain within the family that originally owned the piece’.

Asked if he collects clocks, he replied ‘ I have a small collection of French clocks circa 1780-1810, partly because in this country we tended to specialise in high quality movements, not cases, on the continent it was the other way round’.

I now broached a very pertinent and significant topic, about which I feel very passionately. I informed Richard that I instruct at St Loye’s Foundation and that the horology trainees upon returning to their respective Home areas are finding that there are fewer opportunities to take up apprenticeships, enabling them to continue with their training. This appears to be due to a decline within the amount of horologists generally able to provide such training or apprenticeships. That said, there are always openings for self-employment. Richard replied with equal passion: ‘it bothers me very much that within the next 10-15 years, who we tend to refer to as ‘the old boys’ will have left the business and what’s happening is that people who have left a job at say 50-55 years of age are going to West Dean and taking a horology course but this of course means that there aren’t that many youngsters ‘which is a great shame’.

I asked Richard if he had undertaken an apprenticeship or training of any kind as a horologist: ‘No, I don’t have any formal training, I’m not taught from the technical point of view. I’ve always been in the commercial side, buying and selling and worked for 17 years in a London auction house, running their clock department’.

It was at this point that I could not resist the urge to ask Richard: ‘in that case, who does your clock repairs?!’ I then handed him one of my business cards, which I have to say, he accepted graciously.

We rounded off the interview with mutual thanks and Richard then returned to valuing one of the hundreds of clocks/watches he was to view that day. Having left Richard in peace, I sought out a certain Mr Michael Aspel who in between filming, was once again, extremely generous with his time. He told me:

‘I’m always personally glad to be back in the West Country because I was an evacuee in Somerset, during the war’. Something which I found difficult to believe as he probably looks younger in real life than when he presents on the television! ‘On this occasion we are actually staying here (Dartington Hall), normally we usually stay as near as we can get to the venue. If the rain holds off, it will be the first time for a very long time! Week after week we’ve done consecutive broadcasts and the rain has poured every time!’

‘I’m always personally glad to be back in the West Country because I was an evacuee in Somerset, during the war’. Something which I found difficult to believe as he probably looks younger in real life than when he presents on the television! ‘On this occasion we are actually staying here (Dartington Hall), normally we usually stay as near as we can get to the venue. If the rain holds off, it will be the first time for a very long time! Week after week we’ve done consecutive broadcasts and the rain has poured every time!’

I asked him: do you collect antiques yourself?
‘I did collect silver and portraits and stuff, but I got burgled twice and the second time was so bad, even taking the garden statuary last time, that I just sort of collect vicariously now, give presents, that sort of thing!’

I had to ask if Michael possessed any interesting clocks?
‘I do, I do like clocks, being on television you’re obsessed by time. I do love clocks, I think they’re beautiful, I always watch his (Richard Price’s) recordings if I can and some of the others .. they are like poets’. At this point a loudspeaker boomed over us interrupting the proceedings, so thanking Michael for his time, I wandered off to soak up more of the very civilised (and quintessentially English) ambience.

I have to mention that all the experts to whom I spoke (which included Henry Sandon, who was his usual jovial avuncular self, Bunny Campione and Paul Atterbury) were so accommodating and generous with their time, not once was I left with the impression that they wanted to be elsewhere. I Cathy McAnespie